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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/05/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 27, Whole Number 1422
Table of Contents
How Big Was My Starship?:
There is a poster-sized gif showing the comparative size of spacecraft from popular media at: http://www.people.iup.edu/pnwm/comparison.gif [-mrl]
Hot Beverages (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
People who know me are surprised that I do not drink coffee or tea. I drink a little hot chocolate, but I am very careful about it. The thing is that I rarely can see hot beverages are worth the risk. They are either too hot or to cold. Drinking a cup of piping hot coffee for me is a lot like mating is for a spider. You want to get close enough to enjoy the object of your desire but have to do it gingerly and pull back before it does you real damage. [-mrl]
The Coming Society (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I got a call a week or so ago from someone who identified himself as a policeman. Now I am a pretty honest person who lives well within the limits of the law, at least as far as you know. But let's face it, nobody likes to get a phone call from a policeman. I really do not like to get phone calls from anybody who carries a gun. It is, I suppose, better than having someone with a gun come knocking at your door. And that is better than having somebody with a gun come knocking in your door. Any of these things is worse than most dental surgery, with the possible exception of root canal or that thing where the dentist asks "is it safe?" and then . . . Well, anyway.
But as I was saying I answered the phone and heard "Hello, Mr. Leeper. This is Officer Brisbane Flapjack [not his real name]. I am calling on behalf of the New Jersey Police Benevolent Society [not his real organization]."
"Hello officer. Do you carry a gun?"
"Yes sir, Mr. Leeper. A 357 Magnum Howitzer Glock Uzi, [not his real gun] the largest and most powerful gun that a peace officer allowed to carry. But I wanted to tell you about what the Police Benevolent Society is doing to help teenagers in your neighborhood."
"Is it loaded?"
"What good is gun that isn't loaded? Yep, it is loaded with real bullets and if I let these babies go they would rip right through you and not even remember they ever met you. I was wondering if you would like to support our good work in your neighborhood?"
"Who do I make the check out to?"
Well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
Now I have long ago put my name on the list of people who do not want to be solicited by telephone. The New Jersey State Government actually protects me from telephone solicitation by anyone who is not from a branch of the New Jersey State Government. Police are welcome to call me as far as the state is concerned and as a result of this monopoly charities seem to be proliferating and happily rushing in to fill the vacuum.
A not necessarily complete list includes:
I don't know about you, but I find it really hard to say no to someone who tomorrow may be having to decide whose fault was a traffic accident or who could claim that my tires strayed over a double line even if they hadn't. Even if I had done nothing wrong and I wanted to fight a ticket, what would be my chances? The police know that they intimidate the public and even if they do nothing else unethical, who they are and what they could do makes them hard to say "no" to.
One group claims to want the money to purchase bulletproof vests. Now who am I to deny police putting their lives on the line the ability to make themselves safe? But this is dirty pool. It is hard to tell a policeman on the phone that you think he really should be vulnerable to bullets. But if he needs protection is it really individuals on the telephone, who should be asked to pick up the tab? Should it not be taxes that pay for the vests?
I guess the question becomes where does it all end? We also have volunteer firefighters calling us. I doubt that they would conciously decide they would not do their best to fight a fire at my house just because I had not contributed to them. But you never know.
Then there is the mailman. Now the mailman is a separate issue. Back in Michigan I socially met someone who turned out to be my mailman. He volunteered the information that occasionally my issue of "Variety" would come a couple days late because he was reading it before delivering it. I do not know if tipping him would have improved his service, but he was intentionally delaying my mail.
I suppose you could tip and/or give to charities for anyone and everyone from whom you get services and whom you expect to be professional. I have been to countries that are like that. I have seen first-hand that Egypt is like that and so is India. Everybody pays baksheesh for what they need to get done. I don't think we want that here. I would not eliminate tipping altogether, but societies like those in the Near East let it get totally out of hand.
In the end, I tell police charity callers to send me the information of what they do and I will once a year determine what to send them. But with so many police-related charities, each gets a smaller piece of the pie. [-mrl]
Ten Things I Learned in 2006 (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
10. Never try to have seven people on a one-hour panel at a conference, especially if three have DVD or PowerPoint presentations, and extra-especially if they have not actually tried them on the actual equipment ahead of time. There is a lot to be said for speaking from notes on a piece of paper.
9. Cleaning out your closet or drawers does not actually de-clutter the house until you actually get the discarded items out of the house.
8. No home repair or improvement is ever done on time, or as you expected.
7. Planes on Christmas Day are not quite as empty as they used to be, but they are much better than the day before or the day after.
6. Checking in on-line the day before your flight can save you a lot of time, even if you want to check bags.
5. If you are going to be in an accident, do it in a rental car. Then you can return the car to them and it is their problem.
4. Always check the destination weather a day or two before you leave--you may discover the temperature is running twenty degrees colder than normal. (This might not be a problem for December in Maine, but definitely is in Phoenix!)
3. If you are bringing a TV to a nursing unit, and it has anything but a minimal remote, get a cheap universal remote for it, since remotes can easily get lost, misplaced, or accidentally thrown out.
2. Hiring live-in health care does not give 24-hour coverage. Unlike we have Asimov's positronic robots, even health care aides have to sleep, and to get a break occasionally.
1. Tell your family members often that you love them. You never know when it might be the last time. [-ecl]
Racial Stereotypes (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):
In the 12/29/06 issue of the MT VOID, Evelyn wrote, "If you are looking for early racial stereotypes, how about this description of Ethiopian warriors [in THE SONG OF ROLAND]: 'As black as ink from head to foot their hides are, With nothing white about them but their grinders.' (Note the use of 'hides' rather than 'skins', in addition to the actual description.)"
Fred Lerner responds, "I suspect that this owes less to racism on Sayers's part than to her desire to preserve the assonance that is characteristic of the Chanson du Roland in the original mediaeval French. ('Hides' is assonant with 'grinders'; 'skin' and 'teeth' offer no assonance.)" [-fl]
Evelyn answers, "Fred is probably right, especially since Sayers talks in the introduction about the assonance in the original, and how she maintained it. And I would never debate this sort of thing with Fred, who is much more knowledgeable in this area than I am. However, in this case the goal for assonance led to what I would say was an unfortunate choice of words." [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I was reading a "New Yorker" article on Bible publishing ( http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/061218fa_fact1) which said "ninety-one per cent of American households own at least one Bible--the average household owns four." Well, we are not an average household: we have eleven--or so. "Or so" because I am not sure how to count partial Bibles. Does one copy of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and one copy of the New Testament count as one Bible or two? How do I count an abridged version? Does the Apocrypha count?
Okay, since you are probably wondering, the various versions are the King James Version, King James Version (Canongate, only some books), New King James Version (Extreme Word Study Bible), New International Version (travel edition), New International Version (Study Bible), New English Bible (New Testament only), Douai (Old Testament only, abridged), Jewish Translation Society (1917 and 1985 translations), U. S. Army Jewish Scriptures (abridged), and the "Black Bible Chronicles". Also the Apocrypha (Modern Library), and an interlinear New Testament.
Which leads me to BIBIOHOLISM: THE LITERARY ADDICTION by Tom Raabe (ISBN 1-55591-080-7). This is more humor book than actual study of the (sometimes extreme) love of books. For example, on page 11 he claims that he once discovered that he had bought three identical sets of Dickens (twenty-one volumes each, hardbound, illustrated, and $185 a set) without realizing the last two were duplicates. And his timeline of the history of the book includes such entries as "Highly publicized diet book published under the title LEVITICUS. Sales flop. 'Too many rules, too depressing, not enough variety, not enough attention to cholesterol,' cry the critics. 'And for crying out loud, give it a decent title.'" Later, he has "LEVITICUS reissued under the title EAT RIGHT OR DIE, but sales still sluggish, limited only to an ethnic corner of the market." But finally, "LEVITICUS reissued as SINAI LITE-- LOW-FAT, LOW-CALORIE, LOW-CHOLESTEROL, LOW-SALT, PORK-FREE EATING FOR PEOPLE ON THE MOVE, by Dr. Moses. Sales take off."
Pages 27 through 30 are the famous "test" that has shown up everywhere (including the Web). Some questions seem serious ("Do you ever buy books simply because they were on sale?"), some not ("When you go to a bookstore after work, thus arriving home late at night, do you lie about where you have been, telling your spouse you were a a bar?"), and some just *wrong* ("At a garage sale, is the first thing you look at the books?" At a garage sale, the *only* thing I look at is the books!).
Raabe gets even the "serious" stuff wrong. He says, for example (on page 63), "Put two copies of the same book on a table, and the uglier of the two will fetch the higher price." I believe he means something like "put a new copy and an older copy of the same book on a table, ..." but a first edition and the current reprint are *not* the same book. (Even Raabe acknowledges this in the next section.) I also think he misspells "Euripides" (as "Euripedes") in his Sophocles/Euripides anecdote in Chapter Eight, but it could be that scholars have decided to revise the transliteration for that as that did for Peking/Beijing. He refers to "Cheryl Ames" rather than "Cherry Ames", but I guess since he's a guy, he can be forgiven--a bit. And in Chapter Ten, "K marts" should be "Kmarts".
(A Google search shows 2,390,000 pages for "Euripides" and 617,000 for "Euripedes".)
Raabe does have a few memorable lines. In talking about fights over volumes in bookstores a hundred years ago, he says, "Today, the only place one experiences this sort of intensity is at the martial arts exhibitions that are euphemistically called 'Friends of the Library' sales."
Several years ago, Mark defined various degrees of science fiction fan: "The first-degree fan reads the Hugo-winning novel even before it was nominated for a Hugo. The second-degree fan read it once it is nominated, but before it wins a Hugo. A third-degree fan reads the Hugo-winning novel after it wins, but before the next year's Hugo nominations. A fourth-degree fan, retroactively named, reads the Hugo-winning novel at some point in the future. A fifth-degree fan has seen THE MATRIX. (It used to be STAR WARS but I am told that today's younger fans have decided that STAR WARS is no good and what rules is THE MATRIX. Only us old fogies still prefer STAR WARS.)" [from a revised version, MT VOID, 04/23/04] Raabe has "The Discovery Index (pages 100-101), which includes various levels such as knowing the author after the author's short stories appeared in a regional literary review but before their novel appeared in hardback, or after the movie tie-in paperback but before the appearance of the movie stars on "Good Morning America".
There is a long chapter on the "fantasy bookstore", but since the book as written in 1991 there is nothing on amazon.com, alibris.com, or any other on-line booksellers. (However, I'm reasonably sure that I was ordering books over the Internet from individual stores in Australia and the Netherlands back then. It just had not caught on in a big way.)
One major problem with this book is that the authors and sources he cites just make one want to go out and acquire those. I'm hoping most will be available from my library system, although books such as CARROUSEL FOR BIBLIOPHILES edited by William Targ and published in 1947 is unlikely to be in any library that has done purging of their shelves lately.
[Which proves what I know. When I started looking up the books in the bibliography, I could not find CARROUSEL FOR BIBLIOPHILES in my library, but one library did have the other book edited by Targ that was listed in the bibliography: BOUILLABAISSE FOR BIBLIOPHILES. Of course, so far as I can tell, the Plainfield Library has never gotten rid of anything--they had close to a dozen of the books in the bibliography that I would have sworn would have long since gone. This is the same library from which I got a 1925 book that I described in a previous column that had one of those old octagonal spine labels with the call number hand-lettered by fountain pen.]
A radio station recently reported that a poll showed that 82% of Americans believe in angels. They also reported that half of the believers had no religious affiliation. This would mean that 41% of Americans have no religious affiliation, which is in clear contradiction to all those polls that give very high percentages of people who attend church regularly, belong to churches, etc. (A recent article on charity in the "New York Times Magazine" claimed "96 percent of the population say they believe in a supreme being.") What do we learn from this? That a lot of these polls reported on by the media are just not to be trusted for one reason or another. In this case, the problem was in the radio's reporting: the actual poll said that half of the people who had no religious affiliation, *not* that half of the people who believed in angels had no religious affiliation. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The fool of nature stood with stupid eyes And gaping mouth, that testified surprise. -- John Dryden, Cymon and Iphigenia
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